Vacationing, German-Style

What's it like to take a vacation "German Style?" Hopefully I won't offend my German friends with my frank comments!

German Vacation

Germans on Holiday. The most famous stereotype of a German on holiday is his penchant for rising early to drape his towel over a coveted sun lounger. I wish I could tell that this was only a myth... I can't. No soon is the sun up over the horizon and the masses are streaming to their chairs. Some stay and watch the sun rise. Most retreat immediately to who knows where. As far a nasty national traits go, there could be worse things.

We recently enjoyed a "Pauschal Urlaub" to Marsa Alam, Egypt on the Red Sea. I had never before booked a "Package Vacation," but last year Germans made 70.7 million trips and a full 40% booked a package deal. After encouraging my wife to spend the winter in Munich taking German lessons, it was my way of giving her something to look forward to. I have to admit, it was nice not to have to do any research and no thinking - just get on the plan and relax.

Germans still like to use Travel Agents. In the USA there are only a few really good travel agents  remaining and it's a real shame. It is refreshing to deal with a real professional who knows the places, properties and local situation. Yes, you can search through the reviews online and they are a helpful tool, but there's nothing like talking to someone about what's important to you and with a human who stands behind it. In our discussions, we told her what we liked and didn't like in our past travels and in minutes there were several suggestions about places and hotels we should consider. Then, bang - train to airport, flight, transfer to hotel, and hotel all booked instantly - one price!

On the ground, there are many European tour operators greeting the flights and they whisk you through the visa process and get you boarded on the bus to your hotel in the blink of an eye. If I had tried this myself, I'd still be standing at the ATM...

At the hotel your arrival is already known, you sit down with a hot towel and a cold drink while your passport is copied. A hotel official greets you with a brief orientation to the hotel and you're having a drink at the pool before you can say "Yes, please!"

Granted these all inclusives don't teach you much about the rich local culture, local cuisine, story, etc. But, for a quick getaway without any planning, it really can't be beat.


So, back to vacationing with Germans....

The place had about 70% German guests and the rest were lot Brits, French and Scandinavians. The staff told us that they rarely see any Americans. Those we talked with seemed genuinely interested in the novelty of speaking with an American. We were really impressed with Egyptian hospitality.

People watching is always fun and I'm sure we were also entertaining for the other guests as well. The whole thing reminded me of Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain. You get used to seeing the same people time and again and star referring to them by their nationality, i.e. "that red headed British lady stole my toast again today!"

On arrival day, everything is new and exciting - we rushed out to take pictures and the dinner buffet was a magnificent feast and we ate way too much. Two days later, we were the experts who could pick out those new arrivals - pale colored with skin untouched by sunshine, they all run to the beach with their cameras. Mainly iPhones now - and they all try the panorama shot of the bay. There was also a little wreck of a boat beached on the sand - everyone takes a picture of that.

The biggest thing Americans need to get over is European swimsuit. All the ladies wear a bikini and most of the men sport a little speedo. Regardless of weight and body type. Regardless. It's not like if you are on the portly side that a one piece suit hides the truth. So, I guess "letting it all hang out," is a bold embrace of loving yourself. Keep in mind that we Americans are seen as "prudes" and a land where an exposed female breast can lead to a lawsuit. Silly Americans! However, most people will cover up on the way to and from the beach. Many would use the white robes found in the guest rooms - again a little like the old spa/treatment hotels. Interestingly, I only saw one guy sporting socks with his sandals - it appears that trend is over, thank goodness. Now, however, we saw many couples doing their Nordic Walking in the mornings and late afternoon - power walking with poles. A good exercise, but on a paved, flat sidewalk, it seems a little over the top.

There is also a desire to have the same table for every meal and the same sun lounger every day. When this doesn't happen, it leads to all kinds of confusion- this is always fun to watch.

There is a whole list of companies that handle these package vacations - TUI, DER Tour, Schau ins Land etc. and then there are a number of charter airlines that are used by these agencies - ours was Germania Airlines. All over Europe there are these charter airlines that are flying certain routes like Munich - Marsa Alam on certain days of the week. You won't get a seat unless you go through the right channel - namely, using a travel agent. Every seat was full on our trip both directions and the hotel was also 100% booked, so their sales system is working!

Germans also like to clap when the plane lands - not sure if this a gesture to the pilot in thanks for a good flight and getting us there safely or an expression of "Yeah! Vacation has begun!"

You may be wondering how we coped. Did I embrace the speedo and run out to the beach in the morning at sun up? Maybe you can guess - how German have I become?

If you want to read my review of the hotel we visited, you can see that on Trip Advisor here...